The New Face of Contracting
By: George Addison
Article first published as Economy Brings Minority Business Certification Into Focus on Technorati
“No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals.” -Brian Tracy
Each year thousands of entrepreneurs regularly travel across the country to attend supplier diversity and opportunity fairs. As the national economy slowly takes hold, many are checking the status of their minority business certifications, renewing old business contacts, getting insights from keynote speakers and doubling their networking efforts in anticipation of an upbeat 2013.
A number of certified companies take full advantage of supplier development events and opportunity fairs. Delquan Dorsey, Executive Director of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Governor’s Office of Minority Empowerment says, “these events bring attention and awareness to opportunities that exist inside and outside the region. In addition, the focus on entrepreneurship and business enterprise helps address other quality of life issues and the outcomes determine how minorities will do economically. These networking events are important because we get to spend time together and enlighten each other on opportunities and best practices that further enhances everyone’s situation.”
There are some tangible signs that despite the political rhetoric being played out across the airwaves, the economy is well on its way back minus any major financial hiccups from Europe and a return to policies that help only one segment of the American populace. So, as entrepreneurs prepare for shifting economic and political winds, minority and women owned businesses in particular, should take heed and make certain that they follow a few basic steps as they prepare to compete at the highest levels.
Since the election of 2008, a tremendous push toward inclusion and equity in federal, state and local contracting has been key to providing minority and women business owners with more opportunities. The certification process itself is usually straightforward and confirms that a business is owned, controlled and operated by the applicants and are usually granted to Minority, Women, Small Disadvantaged and Underutilized entities.
There are a number of certifying agencies that process applicants for government and private sector firms to ensure that only businesses that meet the criteria will be certified. The Small Business Administration, the National Minority Supplier Development Council or its Regional Councils are good places to seek out additional information on the certification process.
National Diversity Solutions (NDS), CEO, D. McGinnis Mitchell agrees with Dorsey’s assessment adding, “Networking events are extremely important because they magnify the importance of minority business and minority business development. Minorities continue to be a key part of economic growth across the U.S. and it’s important to keep fostering such events.”
McGinnis further added, “these events allow my company to help others with their strategic sourcing, supplier diversity enhancement and category management needs while reducing their expenses and increasing spending with qualified women and minority owned businesses.”
Kurt Francis owner of Lexington, Kentucky based Francis Screen Printing has successfully navigated rough economic times for seventeen years by having low overhead and participating at network events. Francis says, “By coming out and showing up, I remind people we are still here. Year after year we meet new people, so it helps a lot to be out in the community.”
Jennifer Patterson Research and Project Coordinator of the Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Christian County Chamber of Commerce said she attends networking events to encourage business growth and adds, “we just want to support business growth, we want to attract new investment in the community from outside, but we also want to support existing businesses and encourage people in the area, who are thinking about starting a business, to go ahead and connect with the people they need to know and get started.”
Many state and local governments see networking events as an added value to their overall business outreach and development. Paducah, Kentucky City Commissioner, Richard Abraham, said through networking events, he gets to spread the word about local government, neighborhood development, and minority owned businesses, Abraham says, “Agencies like Entre Paducah helps entrepreneurs from A – Z, who are passionate about their dreams. So, my goal is to make them aware of these opportunities within this current economy.”
Perhaps Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer, summed up networking best when he said, “These events give people more tools. We have a lot of great minds, but sometimes they don’t have the support or training that’s required to make things successful. These events create an aspirational platform, then, followed by the question how do you do it? So, having all of these support groups here to help you is phenomenal.”